"Will they play the race card?" asks Marjorie Valbrun in the Washington post. By "they," she means the Clintons.
I'm scared for Barack Obama, but not for the same reasons that many other black voters are. While the possibility of a crazed gunman coming after him does worry me, my real fear is grounded in something more probable -- that Hillary Clinton, after her less-than-stellar showing in Iowa and her close call in New Hampshire, will now go straight for Obama's jugular. Race, whether used subtly or as a blunt weapon, will undoubtedly be a factor.
I believe that the Clintons already have played the race card against Sen Obama. (See here and here.) Code words hinting at Obama's possible past "use, abuse and distribution of drugs" or Senator Bob Kerrey's condescending nod to Obama's - "capacity to influence in a positive way without spending a penny the behavior of a lot of underperforming black youth today is very important, and he's the only one who can reach them," have already been brought up. But the clearest indication that the Clintons plan to use the race card came from a statement that Hillary Clinton herself made without the help of hired help or personal /political friends.
Clinton herself has made racially tinged comments that could be taken as either insensitive or patronizing. The most widely noticed was in her efforts to dismiss Obama's talk of "hope" and "change" as empty idealism. In doing so, she offhandedly diminished the important role played by Martin Luther King Jr. in pushing America to meet its promise of equality for millions of black Americans.
"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," Clinton said. "It took a president to get it done." (emphasis mine)
So, Martin Luther King, Jr. was an attractive rabble rouser, Rosa Parks an obstinate bus rider and all those men and women who faced police dogs, bullets, batons and water hoses in Selma and Montgomery, mere part time agitators. It took a white man to get things really rolling for African Americans. Okay, I agree that in 1965, America did indeed need a white president to pass the Civil Rights Act in the face of savage opposition from southern politicians. American blacks were marginalized then both socially and politically. But is that still true in 2008? Can black leaders in America not realize dreams or put into legislation their hope for America without a paternalistic (in this case, maternalistic) white person in power to enable them? Sen Clinton is now denying that she meant to diminish King's role in the civil rights movement or that she wished to patronize Sen Obama. Her statement was taken "out of context" she claims, without explaining what her larger context was.
No matter how Bill and Hill explain their pure intentions, I am not buying. It appears to me exactly what Valburn suspects - a warning to black voters that their aspirations and opportunities for betterment rest in Hillary's capable "white" hands and not in Obama's promise of "hope and change." Is there any other interpretation of what she may have meant by the above statement about MLK and LBJ? If someone has a more charitable reading of it, please do explain it to me. Thanks.